Kelowna resort hopes for tourism rebound after destructive 2023 season

Kelowna’s tourism industry is looking forward to welcoming visitors this summer, after a brutal wildfire season in 2023.

The start to the wildfire season has been less intense this year. According to the BC Wildfire Service, between April 1 and June 8 of this year, the province recorded 201 wildfire starts compared to 393 starts over the same period in 2023.

Brent Lavery, general manager of Cove Lakeside Resort Kelowna, is among those hoping for a tourism rebound. He says the people who make up the tourism industry are “eternal optimists.”

Lavery tells CityNews the Cove Lakeside Resort has already seen a great start to the spring and hopes that trend will continue into the peak wildfire months ahead.

“Our May and June numbers are 10 per cent above our booking pace last year. And what I can tell you is, in July, we’re actually 20 per cent up in our booking pace,” Lavery said.

He says, so far, bookings for August are looking flat. He says those numbers suggest that, as keen as people are to visit the Okanagan, maybe they are just waiting a bit longer to see what the situation is like later in the summer. 

“The Okanagan is spectacular; the wineries are very, very good. So all of those things, we believe, are going to bring people back. We are optimistic and we think everyone is going to come back and we’re going to have a strong July and August.”

Tourism Kelowna says during the first months of this year, industry indicators, including hotel occupancy, were strong and slightly ahead year-over-year.

“We are hopeful and expect that will carry on as strong travel levels over the summer and fall months,” it said in a statement.

Last August, many resorts and hotels became a haven for evacuees fleeing from brutal wildfire conditions across B.C. and the Central Okanagan.

He says the Cove Lakeside Resort housed some of the people who had been forced from their homes, adding virtually every hotel in the area was prepared to assist as well.

The province is working with the BC Hotel Association on “a placement program” for this coming summer, should the wildfire season ramp up and pose an additional risk to the industry.

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